TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The "Future of Your Zoo Campaign" turned in nearly 20,000 signatures to the Tucson City Clerk's office on Wednesday morning, July 5, hoping enough are valid to qualify for a spot on the November ballot.
The initiative would create a 1/10 of one percent sales tax if approved. That's equivalent to a penny on $10.
However, for the zoo it means $8 to $10 million a year for maintenance and a series of new exhibits.
"It's 50 years old," said Nancy Kluge, the President of the Reid Park Zoological Society. "You're starting to see cracks in the sidewalks, retaining walls that are caving in."
If those problems are not taken care of then they become bigger and more expensive issues that the taxpayers would have to pay for. There is also a need for a new sewage and water system.
Approval would also allow the zoo to expand some of its existing exhibits and create others according to its 10-year plan.
The tiger exhibit is already too small and the money would be used to create a larger exhibit just west of the existing zoo. It could also be used as a breeding facility for the endangered species.
New exhibits would include a hippo and crocodile habitat with underwater views.
Kluge, who also helped gather signatures on weekends, said she was surprised by the support.
Zoo-goers, like Daisy Berg, know why.
"I think it's an invaluable experience for the kids," she said, standing among nine kids, including five of her own. "Just to see them interact with animals, see them learn about them and how to protect them."
She's been coming to the zoo since she was 10 and brings her family to the zoo a couple times a week.
"You can stay a half hour or three hours, whatever you want," she said "They get excited just coming here."
For Jed Dodds, Reid Park Events and Outreach Supervisor, this is a life-long dream. His parents brought him to the zoo at 2 years old, and now 36, he never left.
His exuberance when teaching children is infectious, especially when showing off the 4,500-pound Southern White Rhino, Fireball.
There are only about 20,000 left in Africa and they are a target of poachers because of their horns.
Dodds defends zoos because they have taken several threatened species and brought them back to life through breeding programs.
"I fell in love with an area that was passionate about animals," he said. "And passionate about educating the public about the care of animals."